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Freeport volleyball team earns spot in WPIAL final

| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013,
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport volleyball players (from left) Zoe Pawlak, Grace Ward, Morgan Ruppersberger and Megan Sweeny celebrate a point against Knoch during the WPIAL semifinal playoff game Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at North Hills High School.

After splitting the Section 4-AA title, it was fitting that the rubber match between Freeport and Knoch went the distance.

No. 2 Freeport is heading to its fourth WPIAL girls volleyball final in five years after taking the final two sets in a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Knoch in a Class AA semifinal Thursday at North Hills.

Zoe Pawlak had 17 kills, and Alexis Schrecengost had 14 kills for the Yellowjackets, who will face Indiana in the final Saturday at Chartiers Valley. Freeport won 25-22, 21-25, 21-25, 25-15 and 15-7.

“The match was everything we thought it would be, and I don't think we spoiled anyone's Halloween by making them come out here to watch it,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “I couldn't be happier for this group, because they've worked so hard up to this point, and it's paying off for them.”

Celina Sanks had match-high totals of 18 kills and seven blocks to lead Knoch, which will next play either the WPIAL champ or District 10 champ in the first round of the PIAA tournament on Tuesday. Schaely Renfrew was second for the Knights with eight kills.

“I don't know that we were firing on all cylinders. It was a struggle for some of the girls tonight,” Knoch coach Diane Geist said. “I'm proud of the girls. They went out hard and fought for it, but Freeport's a good team. They blocked well, and it was harder to get kills tonight.”

The Knights wrapped up the third set on a kill by Renfrew and had the momentum in the match. But while Pawlak and Schrecengost had been their usual selves through three sets, it was contributions from other players that let the Yellowjackets take control.

Freeport only trailed once in the early moments of the fourth set, and Karlie Hill and Megan Sweeny both picked up points on a 9-4 run that opened up a 17-11 lead. Middle hitter Jess Kelley scored four of her team's final 11 points in the set, as the Yellowjackets began to make some inroads on the inside, which Knoch had previously controlled through Sanks and Mary Zellhart.

“Some teams have one or two good hitters, but we have multiple hitters that are just so strong,” Schrecengost said. “We have so much talent, and I love it when Jess and our other girls swing from the middle because it makes us better.”

The fifth set belonged to Freeport, and it was Schrecengost who put it away.

Sweeny ran together three service points to open a 6-3 lead for the Yellowjackets, and some uncharacteristic errors by Knoch allowed the lead to extend to 11-5. Freeport then ran the offense through Schrecengost, who scored the last four points for her team on kills.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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